Gear Review: Arc’teryx Acto FL Jacket

Arc'teryx Acto FL Jacket Review
Arc’teryx Acto FL Jacket Review- photo by Alexandra Roberts

Over the last three months I’ve been testing the Arc’Teryx Acto FL Jacket and the results are in. Simple and efficient design makes this a great piece as an approach soft-shell for both ice climbing and back-country skiing.

How I Tested

Starting in November I wore this jacket on multiple early season ice climbs including the season’s first ascent of Standard Route at Frankenstein Cliffs. I wore it during one of three trips up the Black Dike at Cannon Cliff and on a half dozen ski tours on Mount Washington including one summit day where temps where in the lower teens and winds were 45-65 mph. I’ll go over the details in the order I feel they are most pronounced.

Breath-ability

Arc'teryx Acto FL Jacket Review
Close up of the fleece “backer” that gives this soft-shell a broad range of comfort and excellent breath-ability

The most noticeable feature of this jacket is how well it breathes. The highly air-permeable Aerius™ fabric is no joke. It is difficult to overcome this jacket’s breath-ability even when you are crushing your uphill approach at Munter Rate 6. This level of breath-ability is really important as this “minimalist” piece does not have any side zips for ventilation. It does not need them.

Water-Resistance

As is common with soft-shell style jackets this piece is not water-proof, but has a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish. I found this to be adequate on the early and very drippy first ascent of Standard this past Fall. The second pitch had a steady light shower thing going on and I made it to the end of the pitch with only a little bit of “wet out”. If freezing rain or rain is in the forecast I’d reach for one of my hard-shells, but for cold & active this has just enough water/snow resistance for me.

Arc'teryx Acto FL Jacket Review
First ascent of a drippy Standard Route for the 2018/19 ice season- photo by Alexandra Roberts

Durability/Abrasion Resistance

While it is always hard to comment on this after only 2.5 months of testing I can attest that I scummed my way up the chimney section on the Black Dike and bushwhacked though some dense pine trees in Gulf of Slides and on Mount Willard and have yet to put anything on this jacket that shows it has been on some adventures, so I’m going with yes, it is durable and abrasion resistant!

Hemlock™

I’ll admit I did not read any of the manufacturer’s description before starting my testing. I like to have no preconceptions when I start the review process. So it took me a moment to figure out why sections of the bottom hem felt like they had a four 4 inch long cylindrical foam/gel-like straws sewn into it. This was something I hadn’t seen before it and I think it’s quite an excellent idea. This feature is designed to prevent the jacket from coming un-tucked from your climbing harness when making repeated over the head arm-stretches (ice climbing). It is an elegant and effective design choice and one I think will appear on many technical soft-shells that are specific to wearing under a harness.

Pockets

In keeping with the fast & light minimalist design the jacket only sports two high “cross over” hand/chest pockets. The few times I wore this jacket casually I missed hand pockets but that’s not a fair dig as this is not a jacket designed for casual wear, it’s designed for sending it in the mountains at a quick clip!

Hood

Arc'teryx Acto FL Jacket Review
Arc’teryx Acto FL Jacket Hood

Arc’teryx did make a clever design choice with the hood changing the material here to lightweight Tyono™ 30 nylon StormHood™. This material is less breath-able than the main material used in the jacket but much more wind-resistant. The informal “try to blow through the fabric” test makes it seem twice as wind-resistant than the main material. The hood fits perfect without a helmet on, which leads me to one of my only negative marks on the jacket. The hood is really a tad snug when worn over a helmet. If you have a low profile helmet like the Petzl Sirocco or Black Diamond Meteor III it would probably work, especially if you are a small or medium sized helmet vs my XL sized melon. I do like the stiffened visor when wearing it without a helmet though!

Arc'teryx Acto FL Jacket Review
A bit snug while wearing a helmet

Sizing/Fit

Following the Arc’teryx size chart I went with a size large based on my 42 inch chest. Other than the hood being snug when wearing a helmet the arm and waist cut felt great. I would layer my Merino wool t-shirt and a light fleece or wool hoody under the jacket. I could easily put my big puffy belay jacket over this when needed. I especially liked the snug elastic wrist cuffs that kept both spin drift and occasional drips running down my arms.

Weight/Pack-ability

Arc’Teryx listed this at 440 g / 15.5 oz. My home scale on my size large weighed in at 490 g / 17 oz. This puts the jacket towards the heavier side of “minimalist” jackets but I’m not sure that could be helped given the base fabric used. I’d take the a few extra ounces for the amount of comfort-range this piece affords. While the jacket isn’t super pack-able I haven’t really had a reason to not be wearing it during day missions.

Arc'teryx Acto FL Jacket Review
Arc’teryx Acto FL Jacket Review- photo by Alexandra Roberts

Summary

Arc’teryx designed this jacket as a minimalist piece for fast & light missions alpine missions and while not the end-all-perfect piece the Arc’Teryx Acto FL Jacket comes darn close to perfection. While I would like to see the hood enlarged a little bit there’s really not much I would change given the end-goal. If you are in the market for a super-breathable rugged soft-shell give this one a look!

A media sample was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links help support the content created here. Thank you!

Gear Review- Arc’teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots (updated 10/2018)

Likely one of the most important choices a climber makes involves their footwear. Happy feet are so crucial for happy climbing and my feet have been quite happy the last few winters while I’ve been testing the Arc’Teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots. Before I break into the details here is how they have been tested:

Mountaineering: (paired with Petzl Vasak Leverlock crampons)

Two full winters guiding in the Northeast with 4 winter ascents of Mount Washington with the lowest ambient air temperature around -20f and wind-chills around -50f. Some alpine climbing in the Cascades with ascents of Mount Shuksan, Forbidden Peak, and Rainier.

Arcteryx Acrux AR Boots Review
The author on the summit of Mt. Rainier- Photo by @cfphotography

Waterfall Ice Climbing: (paired with Petzl Vasak Crampons, Black Diamond Cyborg’s, and CAMP/Cassin Blade Runner’s)

30+ pitches of waterfall ice climbing including Black Pudding Gully (WI4+), The Black Dike (WI4+) Drool of the Beast (WI5-) and Repentance (WI5).

ArcTeryx Acux AR Review
The author on Black Pudding Gully (WI4+), photo by Brent Doscher
ArcTeryx Acux AR Mountaineering Boots Review
The author on Drool of the Beast, photo by Brent Doscher
Arcteryx Acrux AR Boots Review
The author enjoying some late season ice last March
Arcteryx Acrux AR Boots Review
Black Dike, Cannon Cliff, New Hampshire- photo by Peter Brandon

I mention specifically what crampons I tested these with as this is a very important consideration when selecting a climbing boot, especially in this case and I will get into that further in the review. But first lets take a look at some of the details of this design.

I’ll start with some preliminary info from when I first received these boots back in October 2016.

Arc'teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boot Review

“A pinnacle of design for mountaineering, ice and mixed climbing, the Acrux AR is the lightest, most durable, and lowest profile insulated double boot available.”- Arcteryx.com

That is a strong statement, and it happens to be true. Let’s compare some of the other lightweight double boots on the market:

La Sportiva Spantik (88.96 oz/pair)

La Sportiva Baruntse (82.96 oz/pair)

La Sportiva G2 SM (72.22 oz/pair)

Scarpa Phantom 6000 (70 oz/pair)

Arc’teryx Acrux AR (69.1 oz/pair)

This is actually less than an ounce difference than my La Sportiva Batura 2.0’s that I reviewed last winter here.


The obvious difference between these and my Batura’s is that these have a removable liner.

ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT Review

ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT

These liners “feel high-tech” in hand. I wore them around the house and they feel like a comfy slipper designed for astronauts. From arcteryx.com:

“Arc’teryx Adaptive Fit technology uses a removable bootie that employs stretch textiles and minimal seams to create an instant custom fit with no pressure. With protection extended beyond the cuff of the boot and the highest level of breathability in this category, the bootie’s GORE-TEX® membrane optimizes climate control and waterproof benefit. The perforated PE foam’s quick dry properties improve comfort, and a rubberized sole allows the bootie to be used as a camp shoe.”


Arc’teryx partnered with Vibram®  and created the AR outsole using Vibram® Mont rubber which keeps its frictional properties in sub-zero temps.

Arcteryx AR Mountaineering Boots Preview

“The specially developed Vibram® AR outsole is designed for support and sure footedness. The tread and construction feature a semi-blocked toe, with anti-slip grooves, a medial climbing support zone, and heel created to provide braking on steep descents. The Vibram® Mont rubber compound maintains its performance in sub-zero conditions.”


Now that I have had sufficient time in the field to test them let’s get into the question on everyone’s mind. How do these perform?

On the approach

Honestly these have been the most comfortable mountaineering boots I have yet to wear. They feel like they were custom made for my feet. For reference I am a US men’s size 9, EUR 42, medium width forefoot with a slight Morton’s toe. Unlike my previous double boots (Koflach Degre, Vertical, and Arctis Expe) it is easier to put this boot on by first putting the slim fitting liner on then sliding into the outer boot. When the liner is already in the boot it is a little more tricky to slide on but not impossible.

The lacing system is probably the only thing I could imagine being improved upon. There is no traction/tension grabber that is becoming common in a lot of boots in this category. For a boot at the high end of the category I would LOVE to see Arcteryx take it a step further and add a ratcheting lacing system like Boa.

As it stands I’ve adapted my lacing strategy. For general mountaineering and easy ice climbing I lace them at home and leave them all day. For harder ice climbing (WI4 and up) I’ll lace them at home, approach, then take the time at the base of the route to snug them up for better performance on the vertical. It doesn’t take long and leaving them loosely laced on steep ice can lead to some insecurity.

For comfort on the approach and descent these score very high. They are super light and warm enough for my feet in all the conditions I’ve tested them in. I do have “warm” feet though so if you suffer from cold feet I would suggest some solid test runs before going to significant altitude. The long term comfort is so significant that I’ve returned home after 14 hour days and left them on while stocking the wood stove and cooking dinner. No joke I have not felt the need to pull my feet out of these as soon as I get home even after significant slogs.

One of the reasons they might be so comfortable on the approach and descent is the small amount of flexibility within the shank/out-sole, a trait some who have tried them are concerned about, but one that I feel is easily remedied. I will elaborate more on that in the next section.

On the climb

The slim looking low profile Arc’Teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots are the Lamborghini of the climbing boot world. Ok, that might be going a bit overboard but seriously I find these perform extremely well on steep water ice when paired with the right crampon. Why is the crampon pairing so important? Two reasons.

  1. These are super light boots. For hard ice climbs a heavier crampon might actually reduce your energy expenditure by giving your boot/crampon a better balance for efficient kicks. Before you call me crazy consider this is the same theory that explains the practice of adding pick weights to your ice axes. I find the heavier Black Diamond Cyborgs and CAMP Cassin Blade Runners to add a nice amount of weight allowing me to “kick lighter” and let the boot/crampon do the work. So super light boots are a plus for the approach and descent, but it’s nice to add a little mass for the kicking portion of your climb!
  2. These boots have some flex. That small amount of forefoot flex feels great on that 8 mile approach, but when you are front-pointing on near vertical ice having a secure platform takes precedence. I noticed the flex first when leading a 3+ route wearing my well worn Petzl Vasak Crampons. It wasn’t a big deal, but it was noticeable. I’ve since lead multiple grade 5 ice routes using the Black Diamond Cyborgs and CAMP Cassin Blade Runners and in all cases the inclusion of the stiff heavier crampon virtually eliminated all noticeable flexibility while front-pointing on both steep rock and ice.
ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT Review
Photo by Brent Doscher Photography

Summary

Five months of some of the best Northeastern ice climbing I’ve had in years have left me with a super positive impression of the Arc’Teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots. Slipper like comfort, 3-season like weight (yet still plenty warm for my feet), and high end performance when it matters most all add up to a fantastic new edition to the growing assortment of lightweight double boots. You should try a pair on!

UPDATE (10/22/2018)

Two years later and I’m still in love with these boots! I climbed Mount Shuksan, Forbidden Peak, and Rainier in them the following summer! You can see those trip reports here.

Buy on Backcountry

Thanks for reading! Take it one step further and comment below! Have you tried them? What did you think? What’s your current boot crampon/setup?

Disclaimer: Arc’Teyrx provided a pair of these boots for the purposes of review but all opinions expressed above are my own. Affiliate links help support the content created at Northeast Alpine Start at no additional cost to you! Thank you!

Product Preview- Arc’teryx AR Mountaineering Boots and Cassin Blade Runner Crampons

While I am excited about all the products I’ll be testing this winter I am perhaps most stoked to put this duo together and get on some early season ice as soon as possible! I’m hoping I’ll get enough field days in to have a full review post for each by early-mid January. I realize though by then a lot of ice climbers may have already geared up and wanted to share my first impressions on these before the season arrives.

Let’s start with a preliminary look at the new Acr’teryx AR Mountaineering Boots.

Arc'teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boot Review
Arc’teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots

“A pinnacle of design for mountaineering, ice and mixed climbing, the Acrux AR is the lightest, most durable, and lowest profile insulated double boot available.”- Arcteryx.com

That is a strong statement, and it happens to be true. Let’s compare some of the other lightweight double boots on the market:

La Sportiva Spantik (88.96 oz/pair)

La Sportiva Baruntse (82.96 oz/pair)

La Sportiva G2 SM (72.22 oz/pair)

Scarpa Phantom 6000 (70 oz/pair)

Arc’teryx Acrux AR (69.1 oz/pair)

This is actually less than an ounce difference than my La Sportiva Batura 2.0’s that I reviewed last winter here.

LaSportiva Batura 2.0 Review
LaSportiva Batura 2.0 Review

The obvious difference here between these and my Batura’s is that these have a removable liner.

ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT Review
ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT PREVIEW
ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT
ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT removable liner

These liners “feel high-tech” in hand. I wore them around the house and they feel like a comfy slipper designed for astronauts. From arcteryx.com:

“Arc’teryx Adaptive Fit technology uses a removable bootie that employs stretch textiles and minimal seams to create an instant custom fit with no pressure. With protection extended beyond the cuff of the boot and the highest level of breathability in this category, the bootie’s GORE-TEX® membrane optimizes climate control and waterproof benefit. The perforated PE foam’s quick dry properties improve comfort, and a rubberized sole allows the bootie to be used as a camp shoe.”


Arc’teryx partnered with Vibram®  and created the AR outsole using Vibram® Mont rubber which keeps its frictional properties in sub-zero temps.

Arcteryx AR Mountaineering Boots Preview
The Vibram® AR outersole uses Vibram® Mont rubber to perform well even in extreme cold

“The specially developed Vibram® AR outsole is designed for support and sure footedness. The tread and construction feature a semi-blocked toe, with anti-slip grooves, a medial climbing support zone, and heel created to provide braking on steep descents. The Vibram® Mont rubber compound maintains its performance in sub-zero conditions.”


I’ll share a promotional video on the boots and move onto the crampons I’ll be pairing with them this winter!


CASSIN Blade Runner Crampons

CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons
Cassin Blade Runner Crampons

These are the most aggressive fully adaptable to any situation crampons I have seen. I used to love my older Petzl M10 crampons because I could swap out the front points for either dual, mono, or mono-offset. The Blade Runner’s do all that but CAMP also makes optional “snow points” so you can turn your vertical ice crampon into a multiple purpose mountaineering crampon. It really does make these incredibly versatile! My demo pair arrived set for offset mono and I plan to test them that way first with our thin early season ice conditions. Included with the crampons were two more vertical front points and semi-automatic toe bails allow for use on boots without rigid toe lugs.

CAMP Blade Runner Crampons
Included extra parts

Fit

How well a crampon can attach to your boot is paramount. You want them to feel like they were designed for each other and no one else. Right out of the box the fit on the Acrteryx AR was quite good. There is plenty of adjust-ability to make it “perfect” starting with three possible toe bail positions, two possible heel lever bar positions, full vertical adjustment on the heel lever itself, and, something I haven’t seen before, the asymmetric bottom that more closely follows the contours of the boot outer-sole.

CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons
CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons- a snug fit
CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons
Vertical heel lever adjustment

Obviously we can’t talk much about performance just yet but they are definitely a very aggressive crampon! One could argue this is a 19 point crampon (20 if set up in dual front-point mode). The design looks like it will excel on steep & cauliflower ice.

CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons
Cassin Blade Runner Crampons- aggressive, included anti-balling plates

The front points are made from Chromoly Steel and taper from 5mm down to 3mm. A “wear indicator” of sorts lets you know when it’s time to swap in new front points.

CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons
CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons

Well that’s it for my first impressions. I absolutely can not wait to start putting these to use this winter. I’m also reviewing the Camp Cassin X-All Mountain Ice Tools and the Camp Cassin X-Dream Ice Tools.

CAMP USA Cassin Ice Tools/Crampons
Things with sharp points

Think the Arcteryx Acrux AR boots might be good for you?

You can purchase them on Amazon here. Ordering through that link will help support this blog.

Stay tuned this winter for lots of gear reviews and giveaways! I’ll be raffling off brand new climbing harnesses, ice screws, carabiners, and more. Don’t miss a review or giveaway! Subscribe/Follow this blog at the top right so you get all the details!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start